Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the death of Trish Keenan, singer and songwriter of the band Broadcast. When she died, it was the first time in a long time I had been shocked by the death of a musician. It was not just that, at 42, she seemed too young to die, it was also the means of her death. Musicians who die young are supposed to die in plane crashes, of drug overdoses or by their own hand. Not of an illness (pneumonia, after contracting the swine flu), the way that any of us might die.
I was also saddened by her death because of what her music had come to mean to me. I can’t claim Broadcast had always been one of my favourite bands. I first heard them on John Peel’s show I believe, around the time of their debut album ‘The Noise Made By People’. I liked what I heard, and that they were on one of my favourite labels, Warp, so made a mental note to investigate further. I never quite got round to it though. Thereafter they flitted around my consciousness, one of the many potentially great bands that I never found enough time to listen to.
What made them an important band for me, was meeting my wife in 2009. We began our relationship living hundreds of miles apart, and used to send each other compilation CDs in the post. The first track on the first CD my wife made for me was Broadcast’s ‘Tender Buttons’ from the album of the same name. So for me, that song became the sound of new love, and its’ opening chords produce an almost Pavlovian response in me. Each time I hear them, I feel that rush of new love again.
So I listened to Broadcast much more from that point, growing to love their music on its’ merits, not just for what it signified to me personally. I was even lucky enough to see them live at a Warp Records night in London around a year before Keenan’s death. So, by the time of her death, Broadcast were already the sound of new love to me, but events over the last three years have only increased their significance in my life.
In February 2013, two close friends of ours, A & G, were due to have their second child. I have known A since my schooldays and G for over ten years now, since they met. They even introduced my wife and I, albeit not on purpose. One day that month my wife we were attending a wedding. My wife and another friend of ours (who was also very close to A & G) had been asked to DJ. As they were up on stage spinning records, I received a text message from A. I opened it, expecting good news of the birth, but as the words scrolled slowly across my screen, I was heartbroken to read that their son Theo had been born and died within just a few hours. I didn’t want pass the news on to my wife and her friend, so they could enjoy the remainder of their evening before finding out the news. So I was in a strange limbo, the only person amongst the joyous revellers of the wedding aware of this tragic event.
My reaction was perhaps strange. More than ever I just wanted to dance. The sudden reminder that terrible things can happen to us at any time made me feel, in those moments at least, that I had almost a duty to enjoy the good times. Such as here, at a wedding, surrounded my by friends and music and laughter. So I threw myself onto the dancefloor with abandon, dancing away whilst a part of my mind wondered if it was wrong to be doing so after the news I’d just had. At one point ‘Debaser’ by Pixies was played, the one song I clearly remember dancing to with A at her wedding a few years earlier. I’m a rationalist at heart, and don’t believe in fate, but if ever I’ve thought someone was trying to send me a message, it was then (Incidentally my plan to keep the news from my wife and our friend until after the wedding ultimately failed. I forgot that of course they would have received the same message. So after they finished DJing they found out in any case)
But what has this to do with Broadcast? Well, a couple of weeks later was Theo’s funeral. A and G decided to celebrate his life, short though it may have been, with the family and friends who they love and who would have known and loved Theo too. As they stood and spoke of their little boy, their memories of him and how he affected their lives, I tried to hold in the tears. As always it was music that made me fail. After the eulogies, the attendees sat and contemplated as Broadcast’s ‘Colour Me In’ played. Only they will know exactly why they chose that song, but it was the perfect choice, I feel. As I listened, tears came in floods. I thought of the happier times with A and G, when we were younger, without responsibilities. How I never could have imagined they, or anyone I know, would have to go through this. How much it hurt to see them in pain. How much I loved them.
A year or so later, and it was time for our own daughter to be born, and when my wife chose the music she wanted to give birth to (as I wrote about in a previous post), Broadcast again seemed like the right choice. Whilst the birth didn’t quite go exactly according to our plans (a whole other story), I still remember the early stages, holding my wife’s hand, listening to ‘I Found The F’, feeling so happy about the new person about to arrive in our lives. When I started writing this post, I felt I wanted to say that Broadcast had soundtracked the happiest and saddest moments in my life. Which is partially true, but not what I really feel. What I really want to say is is that Broadcast, to me represent some the most important and purest forms of love there are. The first rush of romantic love, the love for one’s friends in the hardest of times, and the love of parents for their child, no matter how little time they have known him for.
So, to Trish Keenan and Broadcast, the most remarkable of bands, who not only represent new love, but are also a soundtrack to one child arriving in this world, and another leaving it, you are remembered and missed, always.